Steelrising is a game with lofty ambitions from French developer Spiders. It is a challenging game similar to Dark Souls, where you play as Aegis, a clockwork “automat” who must battle other similar creations in a 1789 steampunky world set in an alternate history that brings a unique twist to the French Revolution.
The studio is known for narrative-focused RPGs such as 2016’s The Technomancer and 2019’s Greedfall, which all were released to rave reviews. I loved the games, which made me all the more excited to dive into their latest title.
So let’s dive into our Steelrising review and see what we thought about smashing automatons during the reign of King Louis XVI.
What Is Steelrising?
Players in Steelrising take control of Aegis, a high-level automaton that serves as the bodyguard to Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette is currently residing in the Chateau de Saint-Cloud, but she is aware that the streets of Paris are becoming increasingly unstable. She orders Aegis to go into the heart of Parsi and find her creator, Eugene de Vaucanson, who may hold the key to stopping Louis XVI and his battalion of deadly automatons, who are hell-bent on slaughter and bringing violent ends to all who reside in the city.
Politics is a game, and everyone on this stage plays their part to perfection. Queen Antoinette, King Louis, Vaucanson, the many other members of the Estates General, the enigmatic Comte Cagliostro, and, of course, the crowd favorite Aegis herself — who will be the winner when the gears of slaughter finally stop turning in the city of love?
Is Steelrising a Soulslike?
In many ways, Steelrising plays like many other soulslikes – its mechanics revolve around map exploration, brutal combat, checking checkpoints to level up your character, and learning how to use alchemic weapons and effectively perform powerful attack animations. This is true whether you’re fighting lowly guard bots or massive titans.
And being soulslike, the game can be incredibly demanding. I say CAN BE, as a new feature is introduced in this game that makes your quest to save Paris less soul-crushing.
Enter “Assist Mode”
This game mode allows you to change several game functions. For example, you can reduce the amount of damage you take to 0% (although you will still receive fall damage). You can also keep your XP when you die and modify your stamina regeneration rate. Additionally, you can impact the “cooling” timer that appears when you perform too many actions in succession. If any soulslike game is considering adding difficulty options, Steelrising is an exciting example of how to do so.
So while, when cranked up to the extreme amounts, it can make the game a cakewalk, when used in moderation, it offers a simple boost of confidence that might save your TV screen from receiving a controller through it when things get a little frustrating.
The player can adjust a few parameters through the “Assist Mode.”
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- You can adjust the amount of damage mobs deal to your character.
- Whether experience points are removed upon character death or if you get to retain that XP, your character’s power level will continue to increase even if you hit a wall on a particular boss or area of a level.
- The rate at which your endurance regenerates, allowing you to perform more powerful attacks and maneuvers more frequently.
- The difficulty in which the player can enact perfect and powerful cooldown abilities and a special attack.
Some might think that making a soulslike easier would ruin the experience or take away from what makes the genre special. Others might be concerned that it would be like taking guns out of a shooter or platforming elements out of a platformer. However, Steelrising’s Assist Mode does not take away from the core gameplay. It’s the main thing that kept me coming back for more because it gave me a fresh perspective on how you can accomplish tasks.
And this forward progress made me feel like I was improving at the game instead of mindlessly throwing myself against tough challenges, hoping that the same solution would work if I tried one more time.
My First Impressions of Steelrising
The beginning of Steelrising wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be for a soulslike game. I had fun playing it and figured things out quickly, but then I got to the second map and ran into an enemy that was too tough. I had to turn on the “Assist Mode” to finish the game. Some might think this mode makes the game too easy, but as I stated before, it worked great for me.
The game is still just as challenging as before. There is no more time to learn at a more relaxed pace. With this mode turned on, I am not constantly being sent back to the starting area. This model also has different difficulty settings so I can play at the level the game wants me to be at.
Some people are saying that this game has the potential to dethrone the masters of the genre. I don’t think it will, but it’s showing one way they can improve.
The aesthetic is pretty cool, too!
Final Thoughts On Steelrising
If you’re not interested in imitators and are only a Miyazaki fan, then Steelrising will not be a game for you. Even though it has a great imagination with digestible RPG mechanics, something is just missing. There were also issues with the hardware on the PC where it wasn’t running 60 frames-per-second, which made the game feel less smooth than it should be.
Despite ticking all the boxes – difficult enemies, the need to level up to match their health and attack power, loss of XP on death, and returning to the last spawn point with refreshed enemies – there are still things to look forward to, and that are exciting. As you progress, you’ll gradually unlock new shortcuts and ways of exploring detailed maps.
I instantly fell in love with the game’s world and setting with its unique alternative history angle. However, I have seen many other critics rate the game’s environments and level design have been criticized for being too similar to one another. The graphics have been described as feeling last-gen due to their rough textures. While I don’t wholeheartedly agree, I understand their origin.
There are some flubs in the delivery of the aesthetic that come off as unintentional, but if you can overlook some minor errors, this game offers a real treat.
What makes up for it all is the high level of customization regarding the game’s difficulty level, which allows the experience to be catered to a wide swath of players. It can be more forgiving to new plays and a formidable challenge to veterans of the genre.
In closing, I would go as far as to so that, despite not being perfect, Steelrising is Spiders’ best game, considering it came from a smaller studio. Hats off to this small team of French developers for a well-executed soulslike game.